Monday, June 7, 2010

Guest Post: To Reveal, or Not to Reveal? by Renee from Notes in the Margin

In my Creative Writing class, we have been talking about "big reveals" in books, and how writers should handle them. For example, if you are reading a story about a killer, or some other type of suspense-plot, should the writer let the readers know early on, or save it for the end? The arguments on both sides are pretty convincing. If the reader knows early on, then they can be "in" on the joke/scam, and feel more involved in the story. However, if you wait until the very end, there is more suspense and incentive for the reader to try and figure it out. I think of books like A Series of Unfortunate Events or Atonement, where the author "hides" certain things from the reader until the end, and I just think, "Wow! That ending was so powerful! Definitely not what I saw coming." On the other hand, there are books like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where the author tells you fairly early on what the "secret" is, and I love catching subtle references and jokes because I know what's "going on."

I guess it's just a matter of opinion -- both strategies obviously have their merits and great examples to back them up. If I had to choose though, I think I prefer when the author saves the reveal for end, with a last-minute WHAMMY! Sometimes I've been frustrated with stories that took too long to clue me in (hence the reason I gave up watching Lost around season 2), but I usually prefer to be surprised. I like figuring things out as the characters do. I like the speculation and forming my own theories and looking for clues in a book; then, when it finally comes out, I like going back and seeing the hints that I missed. (But I like to re-read books... If you only read books once, I guess it could be annoying...) I mean really, think how boring Harry Potter would have been if J. K. Rowling just told us from the beginning whether Snape was good or bad?!!

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer when writers do a little dramatic irony and let the reader (or viewer) in on a secret that the other characters don't know yet, or do you prefer to wait for the big surprise at the end?


Thank you so much Renee for taking the time to share with us.
If anyone else would like to do a guest blog, please feel free to email me or use the sign up for on the left-hand side bar.


notesfromnadir said...

I like this question!

It depends on the book. I've recently read mysteries that get into the mind of the killer fairly early on & it does have tension that lasts up until the end.

I also like the whodunit surprise which seems to be more common.

Unknown said...

I prefer to have the reveal at the end but sometimes it’s a refreshing change to know what is going on from the beginning. I’ve read several books recently that don’t try to hide who the “bad guy” is. We went see things from his perspective. It was different (for me) and I liked it.


Related Posts with Thumbnails